Thoughts, Words, Works

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I've made a lot of progress on various things in the past few weeks, schoolwork aside. For one thing, I read over 30 volumes of One Piece to finally catch up with the manga. It's strange: at times, I found myself thinking, "this comic isn't for me," but as I got further on, more and more I found that I was unequivocally enjoying it. Certainly, the comic grows deeper and more inspiring over time; but moreso, I simply found myself accepting the style and quirks of the comic, its own internal logic, and so forth. One Piece physics aren't the physics of our world; but they at least make some sort of wacky sense, and they're very, very, "Shounen Jump".

After that, I also found I had time to catch up with about 10 TV anime I'm currently watching, not counting Xam'd (which ended last week). Plenty of them are good, and may warrant future mention on this blog, but for now, the one I want to talk about is Toaru Majutsu no Index, and not because it's good, but because recently it has become apparent how poorly conceived it is.

I cannot speak for the original novels, which may or may not suffer from some of these problems, but the Toaru Majutsu no Index anime has suffered from what I perceive as a series of directive and planning failings. The most pervasive problem is that it tends to solve its own problems too easily, such that it never reaches the level of excitement it seems it could reach. It has been composed, mostly, of short, somewhat-independent 3- to 4-episode story arcs, and Touma rarely even suffers a setback in facing the main antagonist. More problematic is the way Touma's power is used. Supposedly, his "Imagine Breaker" dispels all supernatural effects by touching them with his right hand; but the series is very averse to defining what constitutes "touching" a supernatural effect. Apparently, touching a magically-enchanted item will dispel the enchantment and break the item itself (as demonstrated in the first episode on Index's Walking Church) but large-scale magic such as the Angel's Fall spell from a recent story arc can't be dispelled that way; and non-supernatural objects that are thrown toward Touma by magic or ESP can't have their acceleration canceled by his hand. The result of this is that in some fights, such as versus Stiyl, or to a lesser extent, Aureleus, Touma can't possibly lose as long as he keeps his hand in front of him because his opponent's attacks can't hurt him; and in other fights, such as versus Accelerator, Touma is basically useless except thanks to his massive, massive plot armor (which lowers the accuracy of all enemies aiming at him to the point where he dodges all their attacks impossibly).

Conceptually, the show hinges on surprising explanations for things - a sort of mystery aspect - but these tend to verge into the laughably ridiculous, such as Kaori's recent speech about how she can fight against an angel because she comes from a Shinto-Christian fusion sect. It gets pretty transparent that Touma and his associates are making plot-fueled leaps of logic sometimes.

Those two things, though, I can excuse somewhat. Then there's the issue of OP2, which was named and added to AnimeNewsNetwork's database way back around episode 12. This made sense, because the series was right around its halfway point and all the characters from the OP1 sequence had already appeared in the show. Around episode 15 or so, the series started to introduce new characters - but it did not actually make the switch to OP2 until several episodes later, at episode 17! This just seems like poor planning - the second OP should have started immediately following the end of the MISAKA Imouto/Accelerator/Level 6 esper arc; instead, they waited until just about the ending of the next arc to break it out - was it just behind schedule or something?

The Angel's Fall arc actually annoyed me a lot, especially in the way it ended. The idea that a powerful spell could be cast by accidentally arranging a huge number of occult artifacts was a little clever, I admit, but the build-up wasn't quite right for that kind of reveal. Also, the rules for who appeared to look like whom seemed contradictory - why did Touma see Kaori and Stiyl as they were, while others saw them as different people? Clearly, Touma was somewhat affected by the spell in that he saw most people by altered identities - and not only that, but he saw the inn owner as Stiyl, while everyone else thought Kaori looked like Stiyl and reacted to how strange that was? But the worst part was that Touma was completely useless in dispatching the spell. Kaori told him to go face his dad instead of protecting her - when, later, it was clear that he would have been much more useful helping her fight off the angel rather than getting in the way of Tsuchimikado fixing things and subsequently getting punched out and watching as things proceeded just the way they would have without him there. Some reconciliation with his dad was necessary, but that scene was pretty much extraneous to the plot.

Speaking of extraneous to the plot, the title character Index herself has done pretty much nothing relevant for almost 11 episodes. Personally, I'm a fan of Misaka Mikoto and her sisters, so I'm okay with the fact that she gets seemingly more screen time and development than Index, but it seems silly that Index has pretty much spent the last 11 episodes bumming around Touma's house more or less uninvolved in his adventures with Aisa, the MISAKA Imouto group, and the Angel's Fall investigation group. This speaks volumes, I think, of how little foresight was used in conceiving the series.

Now, how would I improve it? Obviously, a lot of these problems can't be changed easily. But I think the series could have easily built tension by placing the story arcs out of order. There's already a mechanism to justify this - Touma loses his memory at the end of the first arc (the Index-centric one). Had that one been saved for last, the viewer could start out almost as much at a loss as Touma is for the identities of different individuals. It could move from less-threatening challenges to increasingly stronger enemies without having to require chronological order for the confrontations, culminating in the Index arc (which has the most dramatic tension, especially related to Index's survival). The viewer could be intrigued by hints that the Tree Diagram computer stopped responding and then rewarded when he sees Index's wayward beam blast the satellite and he puts two and two together, rather than having the latter be a halfassed excuse for the former story arc to work properly. Doubtlessly, a lot would have to be rewritten to make the establishment of the characters and everything work out of order, but I think the result would be a show that was much more enjoyable.


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